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There has been an ongoing dig for quite some time at the beginning of Gouraud Street–the main street in Gemmayze–just across the street from the Sacre Coeur school.

Recently a truck was parked in front of the site, with a small ramp feeding into it. I’m not sure if this was for the removal of ruins or construction materials. I noticed a small gap in the canvas and went to check it out.

Below I found some workers or archeologists. The first to look up and spot me began yelling–“No photos!”

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I decided to come back the next day, when the workers were gone, to get a better look:

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An activist told me the site could have been a water channel, possibly during the Roman period, but this is yet to be verified.

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From the number of blue crates stacked up next to the site, it seems quite a few artifacts were discovered. Hopefully the new concrete wall and columns did not affect the excavation, though they were built very close to the ruins.

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I wonder if this dig will reveal more about Roman Beirut, an extraordinary city in the empire, as I have covered in the past, despite repeated harassment from developers and ministry of culture employees. Unfortunately many of the ruins of ancient Berytus, including the Roman hippodrome, are now being dismantled to make way for luxury housing.

Incidentally, I visited this same site almost two years ago. At the time it was a garbage swamp:

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This plot seems awfully tiny for a tower. Wouldn’t it have been great if they kept it as a small garden with ruins? God knows, we could all use some breathing space in this city.

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Habib Battah
Habib Battah is an investigative journalist and founder of the news site beirutreport.com. Battah has covered Lebanon and the Middle East for over 15 years and teaches journalism and media studies at the American University of Beirut. He is a contributor to Monocle, The Guardian, BBC World, Al Jazeera and others, a former fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University and two-time recipient of the Samir Kassir Press Freedom Award. Battah's investigative work was recently recognized for outstanding local reporting by the Columbia University Oakes Award for Environmental Reporting. Battah earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Near East Studies and Journalism from New York University.

2 COMMENTS

  1. There’s also something going on on a plot near Urbanista (between it and the parking lot ahead)…looks like a an excavation dig site too. Is that the one you’re referring to?

  2. Thanks Farrah, I’m not sure about that one, why don’t you take a picture? This one is facing the school, far from Urbanista.

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